Academic Integrity through a Student Lens: Issues and Solutions

International students face specific challenges when dealing with the implementation of academic integrity rules. This research seeks to shed some light on postgraduate taught (PGT) international students’ views on academic offences and their approaches to academic integrity to inform future policies and prevention strategies. 

What did you do? Why did you do it?  

As part of my Postgraduate Certificate for Academic Practice course (PGCAP), I designed an action research project with relevance to my teaching practice at the School of Law, where I am also Academic Integrity OfficerI conducted empirical research on PGT international students’ understanding and approaches to academic integrity through an online questionnaire with 57 students. 

 Despite the growing numbers of PGT international students in the UK, and the challenges students face when implementing academic integrity rulesthere is a lack of attention to how these views could inform academic integrity policies. Very few studies have to date examined international students’ perspectives on academic integrity, and they have been done outside the UK, particularly in Australia. 

 Given these issues, my project provides an innovative perspective on the topic combining an in-depth analysis of the existing literature on the subject with original data obtained through empirical research. My findings suggest that PGT international students’ understanding of academic offences and their regulation aligns with the official policies of the University of Leeds. However, some aspects (e.g., details of academic offences, use of Turnitin, value of intention) require more training and innovative pedagogical approaches that will need to be integrated into the academic integrity policies of the School of Law of the University of Leeds. 

What was the impact of your practice and how have you evaluated it? 

The findings of this research project are significantparticularly their impact on academic integrity research-based activities and pedagogical practices. The inclusion of students’ views into academic integrity reflections of HE institutions is fundamental for a comprehensive and balanced evaluation of existing practices, and it will enrich the literature on academic integrity.  

 Indeed, as discussed in the existing literature, academic integrity is not linked to a ‘fixed’ framework, but it can developIn this sense, ‘improving academic integrity in higher education institutions requires meaningful involvement by students in the change process’ (Richards et al., 2016, 244). This means to improve academic integrity policies by adding information gathered through critical reflection and evaluation of existing academic integrity practices of students (MacLennan, 2018).  

The findings of this project will also be used to change the existing academic integrity policies of the School of Law and the University of Leeds to support better educational practices. In this sense, as Academic Integrity Officer for the School of Law, I will promote the collection of data on students’ views to inform and tailor the School’s approach to academic integrity, aligning it with the pedagogical need to involve students as ‘partners’ in the policy-making process of our institution. 

 The regulation of academic integrity and the use of effective preventive measures are a work-in-progress with space for improvement and change. Our approach should consider both institutional and students’ needs, with attention to PGT international students’ views. In so doing, the academic integrity regime would be better equipped to deal with the (often overlooked) challenges that international students face when implementing academic integrity. In this sense, further research is needed on the topic, using larger groups of participants and a cross-faculty approach. For instance, the involvement of a broader cohort of students within the School of Law of the University of Leeds (including UG international students); and the conduct of projects to investigate the topic at university level. 

How could others benefit from this example?  

The findings of this study will be beneficial to inform future policies and academic integrity prevention strategies of the School of Law and the University of Leeds. By analysing PGT international students’ views, it is possible to identify critical areas for improvement and change to strengthen the existing academic integrity framework and provide a better student learning experience. 

 

Author:

Dr Ilaria Zavoli, Lecturer, I.Zavoli@leeds.ac.ukSchool of Law, University of Leeds 


Further reading: 

  • Bertram Gallant, T. 2017. Academic integrity as a teaching & learning issue: From theory to practice. Theory into Practice. 56(2), pp.88-94. 
  • Denisova-Schmidt, E. 2016. The global challenge of academic integrity. International Higher Education. 87, pp.4-6. 
  • Fatemi, G. and Saito, E. 2019. Unintentional plagiarism and academic integrity: The challenges and needs of postgraduate international students in Australia. Journal of Further and Higher Education. pp.1-15. 
  • MacLennan, H. 2018. Student perceptions of plagiarism avoidance competencies: An action research case study. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 18(1), pp.58-74. 
  • Richards, D., Saddiqui, S., White, F., McGuigan, N. and Homewood, J. 2016. A theory of change for student-led academic integrity. Quality in Higher Education. 22(3), pp.242-259. 

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